'Fitzgerald Family Christmas': Not the McMullens, but close ★★

After making itself available in November through various on-demand viewing options, Edward Burns' latest little picture, "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas," has found a theatrical venue for a Chicago run now under way at the Wilmette Theatre.

If the film, a seasonal ensemble affair, feels extremely familiar, it's because Burns consciously revisits the vibe, concerns and intentions of the one that made his name back in 1995, "The Brothers McMullen."

The seven grown siblings in the titular family are faced with a slew of domestic crises. Burns, as is his wont, has written for himself the role of the "golden boy who can do no wrong," as he's referred to. Mom (Anita Gillette) is turning 70 two days before Christmas, but everybody except the Burns character (who lost his fiancee on 9/11) is too busy to care.

Then comes the reappearance of the father (Ed Lauter) who abandoned the family 20 years earlier. Will he be allowed back into the fold?

Resentments, pregnancies, cancer, spousal abuse and the struggle of a recovering alcoholic all come and go on cue. Primarily "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" can be enjoyed for the screen time afforded Gillette and Lauter, veteran performers with great faces and hardy character-actor pedigrees that go back to millions of childhoods (mine, certainly). Connie Britton, who made her feature debut in "The Brothers McMullen," shares a couple of warm, easy courtship scenes with Burns, though when the hawklike mother played by Gillette wonders if she isn't "a little old" for her boy, you half-expect someone to consult imdb.com and straighten her out: Britton and Burns were born 10 months apart.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'The Fitzgerald Family Christmas' -- 2 stars
No MPAA rating
(language)
Running time: 1:43
Opened: Friday at the Wilmette Theater, 1122 Central Ave., Wilmette

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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